Kidney Stones

Diagnosis and care for this painful condition.


  • Severe pain in the side and back, below the ribs
  • Pain that moves to the lower abdomen and groin
  • Pain that comes in waves and fluctuates in intensity
  • Pain when urinating
  • Pink, red or brown-colored urine
  • Foul-smelling urine
  • Terrible nausea and vomiting
  • Continual need to urinate
  • Urinating more often than usual
  • Urinating small amounts of urine


Many medical textbooks describe kidney stone pain as the worst type of pain–even worse than childbirth. Kidney stones are a common and often painful problem. Mid-Southerners live in the heart of the ‘kidney stone belt’, a dubious distinction in that people in this region have a higher incidence of developing urinary stones than people living in other regions of the country.

Kidney stones can affect both men and women, and can occur at any age; although they are most common in middle-aged men. An attack of pain will happen suddenly, with the pain flaring on the side where the stone is located. The pain usually begins in the flank area and moves to the groin area as the stone moves. People also will often have terrible nausea and vomiting. When stone pain begins, if you can remember to urinate through a strainer, you can often capture the stone and be certain that it has passed. Never just assume the stone is gone because the pain has stopped. If there is any question, make sure to follow up with your doctor, because it can be dangerous to leave a stone blocking off the kidney.

Kidney stones form when the concentration of calcium salts and various other chemicals in the urine gets too high. Crystals precipitate in the urine and then aggregate to form stones. While usually a slow process taking months or even years, stones can sometimes form in just a few weeks. Urinary stones become symptomatic when they cause bleeding or obstruction to the flow of urine. Small stones in the kidney will often not show symptoms. However, when the stones significantly increase in size or pass out of the kidney into the tube (ureter) carrying urine to the bladder, the stone may block the flow of urine, causing pain. Stones may also cause irritation of the lining of the urinary tract resulting in the frequent urge to go, as well as burning with urination.

Many small stones will pass suddenly by themselves. However, as the size of the stone increases, the likelihood decreases of the stone passing by itself. Determining the how likely it is if a stone will pass will require the exact size and specific location of the stone. At the Conrad Pearson Clinic, we find this out using X-rays, CT scans, and ultrasounds.